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motorcyclist and passenger vehicle accident laws and insurance answers

What Happens If You Accidentally Hit a Motorcyclist With Your Car?

July 27, 2020

Most motorcyclists agree that riding is a great way to unwind from a stressful day or enjoy Michigan’s scenic roads from a different perspective. But, when a motorcyclist is accidentally hit by a car, that enjoyable ride can turn disastrous in a matter of seconds. In fact, motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to die and five times more likely to be seriously injured in a crash than those riding in the vehicle that hit them. Unfortunately, accidents happen, despite motorists’ and motorcyclists’ best efforts to drive safely. And, unlike the occupants of passenger vehicles, motorcyclists have no protection against the impact of a crash, even a minor one. Here’s a guide to what happens if a driver accidentally hits a motorcyclist.

What causes a driver to accidentally hit a motorcyclist?

Approximately 75% of motorcycle accidents involve at least one other passenger vehicle.

While crashes occur for a variety of reasons, the most common cause is motorists who fail to see motorcycles in traffic until it is too late.

And, in two-thirds of these accidents, the drivers violated the motorcyclists’ right-of-way, most commonly at intersections. What’s more, a motorcyclist typically has less than two seconds to avoid an impending collision.

In addition, in almost half of all fatal motorcycle accidents, either the passenger-car driver or the motorcyclist was under the influence of alcohol.

Who is responsible for a motorcyclist’s injuries?

An at-fault driver is always responsible for injuries, but since motorcycles are not classified as “motor vehicles,” determining who is liable for an accident and responsible for payment of benefits depends on many factors. A motorcyclist who hits a deer is subject to different insurance rules than one who is injured in a crash with an automobile. This is because basic motorcycle policies do not include Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits.

Therefore, a motorcyclist who is injured in an accident with a car or truck is usually compensated by the No-Fault policy covering that vehicle. In some cases, the injured motorcyclist may recover PIP benefits from the policy held by the driver of the vehicle. This may apply in situations where the automobile driver has a No-Fault policy that is separate from the vehicle owner’s policy. Additionally, motorcyclists who own an automobile may receive benefits from the No-Fault policy that covers their vehicle.

In serious injury accidents, the motorcyclist may also be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering. These damages are also known as “third-party” or “non-economic” benefits. However, plaintiffs must meet stringent criteria to receive this kind of compensation. Therefore, it’s important to contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible to achieve the most advantageous outcome.

What kind of insurance are Michigan motorcyclists required to have?

Under Michigan law, all motorcycle owners must have a minimum amount of liability insurance. This coverage provides protection when a motorcyclist is involved in an accident where another person is injured or killed. It also covers certain costs when a motorcyclist causes damage to other people’s property.

After July 1, 2020, the minimum liability limits changed from $20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident to $50,000/$100,000. Like automobile owners, bikers have the option of purchasing additional liability coverage above the required minimums.

Furthermore, motorcycle owners may purchase optional No-Fault insurance, also known as motorcycle PIP coverage, in $5,000 increments. This insurance only covers medical expenses.

Also, motorcyclists have the option to buy optional No-Fault insurance, which includes Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits.   

How does the new No-Fault law affect motorcycle accidents?

The “order of priority” refers to the rules that determine which party pays for an accident victim’s injuries. For motorcyclists, this order is the same as it was under the old law for motorcycle accidents that involve a passenger vehicle.

1st: The insurer of the motor vehicle owner involved in the accident

2nd: The insurer of the motor vehicle operator involved in the accident

3rd: The No-Fault auto policy of the motorcycle operator

4th: The No-Fault auto policy of the motorcycle owner (if different from the motorcycle operator)

5th: The Michigan Assigned Claims Plan (MACP), which caps medical expenses at $250,000

The biggest change under the new No-Fault law is that policy holders are able to choose their level of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) medical coverage. Prior to July 2, 2020, all Michigan No-Fault policies included unlimited lifetime PIP benefits for all reasonable and necessary medical and related expenses.

Under the new law, motorists can choose unlimited lifetime PIP medical coverage or lower levels of $500,000, $250,000 or $50,000 (for those on Medicaid). In addition, those who are on Medicare or enrolled in other qualified health care plans are able to opt out of PIP medical coverage completely. 

This means that medical benefits for an injured motorcyclist cannot exceed the amount of PIP medical coverage chosen by the driver of the other vehicle. This is true even if the motorcyclist has purchased a policy with unlimited PIP coverage. Therefore, a motorcyclist who is seriously hurt could be left with staggering medical bills. And, the motorcyclist could potentially sue the automobile driver for medical expenses that exceed the policy limits.

Notably, if an individual in the order of priority set forth above has opted out of no-fault  medical, an injured motorcyclist would move to the next no-fault policy for PIP coverage.

What should I do if I accidentally hit a motorcyclist?

After any accident, drivers (and passengers) should take certain steps and avoid other mis-steps.

What to do after an accident:

  • If anyone is injured, call for an ambulance.
  • Call the police and move your car to a nearby spot away from the traffic flow.
  • Take photos of the scene, including the motorcycles and any other vehicles that were involved.
  • Exchange information with the motorcyclists and any other drivers.
  • Get contact information for all passengers and witnesses.
  • Contact an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer as soon as possible.

What not to do after an accident:

  • Don’t leave the scene of the accident.
  • Don’t admit fault or talk about how the accident happened with the police, the motorcyclist or other driver(s) or passengers.
  • Don’t discuss your injuries or those of your passengers.
  • Don’t sign anything, including papers from your own insurance company or that of the other driver.

If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, our knowledgeable legal team is ready to help you win the compensation you deserve.

Get the Bernstein Biker Advantage today.

Motorcycle accident law is complicated, but finding the right lawyer is simple.

Call 1-800-CALL-SAM today for a free, no-obligation remote consultation from the safety of your home.